You hear it on radio, you read it in national and local news, you have to listen to it on a regularly from fellow fans and couch-analysts alike – the Cowboys are going 8-8 or less.
The reason offered? The Cowboys organization did nothing to improve what was a horrendous defense in 2013; many further suggesting that the defense may in fact be worse as a result of losing DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee, the best players on the 2013 defense.
Certainly, there is some truth to that. The Cowboys defense was terrible last year and despite statistical proof suggesting we should see improvement, I understand things can always be worse. But this year is a new year and the Cowboys, contrary to popular belief, actually made several moves in the offseason to remedy their many leaks on the defensive side of the ball.
It's safe to say the Cowboys didn’t sit on their hands during the offseason.
A concerted effort was made to address the issues of last year, with a predominant focus on correcting their depth issues. Considering that there are only so many moves a team can make in Free Agency/Draft, especially whilst the Cowboys have had to contend with a limited cap, I'd say the Cowboys made quite a few changes on the defensive side of the ball.
Perhaps the real question is the quality of those moves – unfortunately, we will have to wait for the season to unfold to bring out a measuring stick. But at this point, I'm counting on six of the above sixteen players to be significant contributors. Could be more or less, depending on injuries and surprise contributors.
The other aspect of potential improvement this defense experienced to consider is that the Cowboys are in their second year in the attacking 4-3.
By merit of being more comfortable in the new scheme, several returning players should show some type of improvement from last year. Players such as Morris Claiborne, Bruce Carter, J.J. Wilcox, Kyle Wilber, DeVonte Holloman, Orie Lemon, among a few others, are entering the put-up or shut-up phase of their careers. Clearly some will answer in the negative, if not yield the same results of 2013; that is the nature of this sport. But serious odds would be defied if all of them ended up being blank rounds in Marinelli’s revolver.
The last thing that tends to get ignored in the “Cowboys defense is terrible” conversation/debate is that the Cowboys offense doesn’t need as much help as the average NFL offense.
This Cowboys offense will be good to great…with the only caveat being if Tony Romo can stay healthy. It is not outside the realm of possibility for the Cowboys to average above and beyond 28 points per game; in fact, considering they averaged 27.4 in 2013, I would take the over on that easily…possibly higher depending on the stakes.
So while this defense may not be the shutdown/shutout defense that places teams on contender-watch, that's not exactly necessary for the Cowboys to finally post a winning record after three years and make the playoffs. The Cowboys are absolute contenders within their division, and should be considered by their divisional foes as the team to beat, having posted a 5-6 record in 2013.
Consider the Cowboys 2014 regular season schedule and the offensive/defensive rank each team posted in 2013.
Teams (overall offensive rank / overall defensive rank in 2013):
|49ers (24th / 5th)
Titans (22nd / 14th)
Rams (30th / 15th)
Saints (4th / 4th)
Texans (11th / 7th)
Seahawks (18th / 1st)
Giants (28th / 8th)
Redskins (9th / 18th)
|Cardinals (12th / 6th)
Jaguars (31st / 27th)
Giants (28th / 8th)
Eagles (2nd / 29th)
Bears (8th / 30th)
Eagles (2nd / 29th)
Colts (15th / 20th)
Redskins (9th / 18th)
*Cowboys (16th / 32nd)
Granted, not too many conclusions can be drawn from the above – too many inconsistent variables occur over the course of a season, notwithstanding the fact that each of these teams played a different schedule and played the same teams at different times and different strengths. Furthermore, many of these teams evolved over the offseason and very well could show vast improvement on one or both sides of the ball. By that same logic, many of these teams could also show regression as a result of injury, key contributors lost in the offseason, career slumps or a combination of the three.
However, one argument to be made is that teams that are stronger on the defensive side of the ball and not so much on the offensive side, such as the 49ers, Seahawks, and Giants, will at the very least be a good game for the Cowboys…not necessarily a win, mind you, but you can count on them being close.
The opposition that transversely shows to be a strength on offense and not on defense such as the Bears, Eagles and Redskins, are the games that very well could be decided by who has the ball last in a shootout. Once again, likely still a relatively close game.
The teams the Cowboys really have to be concerned about are teams who prove to be a strong on both sides of the ball like the Saints, Cardinals and (believe it or not) the Texans. Finally, the teams that prove to be neither a strength on offense or defense, the Cowboys should be able to win, such as the Jaguars, Titans and Rams. The only wild card team left is the Colts, who were pretty mediocre on both sides of the ball, which gives them an edge over the Cowboys…for now.
The point is, in games that are close and somewhat evenly matched, it could go either way for the Cowboys. It very well may come down to the head coach with the best in-game management. Clearly Garrett has struggled in this area in the past, however, with the addition of Scott Linehan taking the reins of the offense, in-game management is an area that I am expecting improvement in.
Last year, there were three games in which game management was the deciding factor that led to losses for a Cowboys team that held a lead in the 3rd quarter against the Chargers, Lions, and Packers. The Cowboys win any one of those games, and week 17 would not have mattered; the Cowboys would have gone to the playoffs. Improvement in that area alone, regardless of what was done on either side of the ball throughout the offseason, could be the difference in whether or not the Cowboys finally post a winning record after three years of mediocrity.
To be honest, with the unknown quantities and question marks that literally arise at every position across the defense, it’s difficult for me to confidently predict anything higher than 9-7. But as I argued in a previous contribution, there is a difference between having questions and knowing the defense has not improved.
We are in the zero hour of this season. Expectations should remain tempered. But a losing season is far from being a foregone conclusion.
Cowboys en Español: El Futuro Incierto de David Irving
En una agencia libre muy callada de parte de los Dallas Cowboys, como es costumbre, lo más interesante hasta ahora se revuelve alrededor de un talento increíble en la línea defensiva: David Irving. El joven de la línea defensiva de Dallas recibió un tender de segunda ronda (con un costo de casi tres millones de dólares) de parte de los Cowboys, lo cual significa que vestirá la Estrella Solitaria un año más... ¿o no?
No, no es tan sencillo.
A diferencia de la etiqueta franquicia que recibió DeMarcus Lawrence hace unas semanas, un tender permite a un jugador recibir ofertas de otros equipos. Si Irving llega a recibir una oferta externa, sin embargo, los Cowboys tienen la oportunidad de igualarla.
Pero no sólo eso, sino que si no quieren igualar la oferta, pueden dejar ir al jugador y en cambio, el otro equipo tiene que compensar a los Cowboys con una selección de segunda ronda. Así como el tender de segunda ronda que se le otorgó a David Irving, hay tender de primera ronda o tender de "selección original."
Sin embargo, Irving no fue seleccionado en el NFL Draft, así que esta última opción hubiera tenido poco sentido.
Ahora, pensando en el 2018 y una temporada ya incierta, nos sentamos preguntando: ¿No valía la pena cubrir a Irving con un tender de primera ronda? Al final de cuentas, sólo hay aproximadamente un millón de diferencia entre ambos. Irving es un jugador lleno de talento, y podría llegar a estar entre los mejores en su posición próximamente.
Sin embargo, si somos honestos, es una buena decisión de la administración. Irving ha tenido sus cuantos problemas y quizá este tender ayude a definir su valor en el mercado. Si ningún equipo alrededor de la liga se atreve a ofrecerle un contrato, los Cowboys mejoran su posición en las negociaciones y quien sabe, quizá consigan un acuerdo más amigable para el equipo.
Además, si un equipo decide llevárselo... ¿qué tan malo sería?
Con el pick #19 en la primera ronda del Draft de la NFL, no están en una posición muy cómoda. Como bien algún jugador talentoso como el DT Vita Vea o el WR Calvin Ridley pueden caer a las manos de Stephen Jones, Will McClay y compañía, bien puede estar vacía la tabla.
Con jugadores como el S de Florida State Derwin James o el LB de Georgia Roquan Smith, deberían considerar realizar un trade para subir algunas selecciones y llevarse a uno de estos talentos que no estarán disponibles en el #19.
Con las selecciones globales 19, 50 y una segunda ronda extra que conseguirían por Irving, es fácil visualizar a este equipo dispuesto a hacer un movimiento así el día del Draft.
A pesar de una mala temporada en el 2017, los Dallas Cowboys son un equipo que están cerca de ser contendientes.
Cowboys Free Agency: FB Keith Smith Signing with Raiders
The Cowboys have lost an important role player from the offense as fullback Keith Smith is reportedly signing with the Oakland Raiders.
The #Raiders and FB Keith Smith have agreed to terms on a 2-year worth $4.2million, source said.
Smith, who has been with Dallas for four seasons, was the team's fullback the last two seasons. He started as a linebacker after going undrafted in 2014.
Whether on offense or defense, Keith has been a regular part of the special teams units. The Cowboys' previous special teams coach, Rich Bisaccia, just left this offseason to join the coaching staff in Oakland. That is a likely cause for Smith heading to the Raiders.
Dallas elected not to give Smith a restricted free agent tender, which made sense given his position. Even the lowest tender of $1.9 million would have been too rich for a part-time player.
Even with Keith gone, Dallas may not need to sign a new fullback. Backup RB Rod Smith has experience in that role. They could also use tight ends James Hanna or Geoff Swaim.
Fullback is obviously not the position it used to be in the days of Daryl Johnston, but there are still times you need that lead blocker out of the backfield. Given their reliance on the run game and the success that Ezekiel Elliott had with Keith Smith, Dallas will have to find a solid replacement plan.
Will Another Team Snag David Irving Away From Cowboys?
It was somewhat surprising to learn that the Dallas Cowboys only placed a second-round tender on David Irving. A first-round tender would have likely dissuaded any other team from signing him to a contract and giving up a first-round draft pick, but signing Irving to a contract and giving up a second-draft pick is much more plausible.
I can almost guarantee there are teams around the league right now who are discussing the pros and cons of trying to acquire David Irving. The Dallas Cowboys likely know this which means one of two things:
- The Cowboys are hoping someone sets David Irving's market value with the hopes of matching.
- The Cowboys are willing to part ways with Irving for a second-round draft pick.
There are teams out there who have more salary-cap space than the Dallas Cowboys who could easily sign him to a contract the Cowboys can't match. And, giving up a second-round draft pick for a dominating, yet inconsistent, defensive tackle is probably better than anyone they can draft.
It's not completely out of the realm of possibility Cowboys fans have seen the last of David Irving with a star on his helmet. But, it seems like a risk Dallas is willing to take, whether fans agree or not.
In 2017, David Irving recorded 22 tackles, seven quarterback sacks, six passes defensed, and one forced fumble. He did this after missing the first four games of the season due to a suspension and the last four due to a concussion. That's pretty impressive!
There is no denying Irving's impact when he's on the field, but it's all the other stuff that makes Dallas hesitant to commit fully to the 24-year-old DT.
I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I know what kind of person David Irving is in the locker room or off the field, but his past behavior and inconsistencies are concerning. Yes, he has immense upside, but that doesn't look as if it's enough for the Dallas Cowboys, at least not yet.
I think this ultimately comes down to the Cowboys not fully trusting David Irving just yet. Placing the second-round tender on him is more of a "prove it" kind of deal, if another team doesn't sign him away. The Cowboys probably want to see he has his head on straight and more consistency before fully committing. It's completely understandable.
It just doesn't seem as if David Irving is in the long-term plans for the Dallas Cowboys right now. I think they would be perfectly content receiving a second-round draft pick, but that decision might not sit well with a lot of Cowboys fans.
There is really no way of knowing if another NFL team will snag David Irving away, but I think the possibility of that happening is pretty high.
Will David Irving remain in Dallas in 2018?
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